Conservation and sustainability of ecosystem diversity and the biodiversity of ecosystems are vital for future generations. The survival and prosperity of our lives depends on the services and products (soil, water and nutrients, etc.) provided by ecosystems. In Turkey, as in the whole world, rapid population growth, urbanization, industrialization, unsustainable production and consumption habits of natural ecosystems ratio has reached dramatic dimensions. Understanding the nature and natural phenomena and managing ecosystem natural resources, services and products (freshwater, forest, steppe, etc.) in an effective and sustainable way is becoming essential.
Among the main objectives of EKOSAM are;
(1) to investigate the structure, function, biodiversity and ecosystem services and products of aquatic, steppe and forest ecosystems, which are widespread in our country including METU campus,
(2) to develop adaptation and mitigation proposals in our region, which is warming up today and will become even more hot and dry in the future, in order to preserve the structure and functions of these ecosystems,
(3) setting sustainable management objectives that will help to make optimal decisions that balance ecosystem conservation / restoration needs and socio-economic developments, and
(4) to share the information with the society obtained from the researches in order to increase scientific awareness and to improve the activities of citizen science.
There are 11.000 plant species, 19.000 invertebrate species, 161 mammal species, 469 bird species, 141 reptile / amphibian species and 916 fish species of which more than 320 of them living in inland waters in our country and one third of these species are endemic (UBSEP, 2007). Being one of the oldest centers of civilization in the world, Anatolia is the home of many local varieties of agricultural products. A small-scale model of our country's ecosystem and biodiversity is also located on METU campus, which has an area of 45 km2 in Ankara metropolis with a population of 5.3 million. Besides forest ecosystem, steppe cover of the campus is an extremely valuable and rare example with many herbaceous plant species it contains, and thanks to being away from human influence for decades. METU campus is one of the few Central Anatolian steppe ecosystems, which has been intervened as little as possible, are free of grazing pressure, was not used pesticides and preserve its nature. There are approximately 700 plant species in the natural steppe cover, which constitutes one third of the total plant species (2100 plant species) within the borders of Ankara province. METU forest is mostly covered with black pines, and also scotch pines and taurus cedars are among the most common tree species. Tree-like steppe vegetation such as hawthorn, wild pear, almond and mahaleb are also located in the campus area. Planted during the afforestation activities carried out over the past decades, these species are very important for wildlife with their flowers and fruits. Birds are the best studied organisms among the METU fauna. The observations made on campus more than 210 bird species (about half of Turkey's avian fauna) has been detected. Although invertebrates are not well known, more than 100 butterfly species have been identified in METU in recent years (DKM, 2011).
EKOSAM Activity Objectives
To ensure ecological integrity and sustainability in preserving the rich ecosystem and biodiversity of our country, particularly in the METU campus, EKOSAM develops (1) Monitoring, (2) Conservation, and (3) Training activities. Under these main activities there are a number of objectives:
- To develop and implement research programs and projects that will provide the necessary scientific knowledge to protect the structure, functions and biodiversity heritage of our country's forest, steppe and freshwater ecosystems.
- To create knowledge and experience in these ecosystems by conducting long-term ecological monitoring, high-resolution monitoring and experimental research that are not available in other parts of our country, especially in the METU campus.
- To establish research and monitoring and community oriented science (citizen science) stations at METU Campus and to activate those already established.
- To develop approaches and well-targeted restoration activities to improve habitat destruction and loss from human impacts in these ecosystems.
- To develop adaptation and mitigation approaches by identifying the impacts of climate change and increased land use, such as current and future changes, using different scientific approaches (long-term monitoring, modeling, experimental research, etc.).
- Planning the METU Campus steppe, forest and Eymir Lake ecosystems with a participatory approach in order to observe the balance of conservation-use and to create models on how to protect other forest, steppe and freshwater ecosystems of our country with the knowledge and experience gained from successful applications.
- In order to create international partnerships, being a part of the most important programs in the world such as "European Long Term Ecological Research" (LTER-Europe) and the "International Long Term Ecological Research" (ILTER).
- To meet the need for qualified personnel in this field by enabling graduate and doctoral students and young researchers at the beginning of their careers to grow up as ecosystem ecologists.
- Through the establishment of the “Citizen Science Initiative”, by sharing its knowledge of the structure, function and values of steppe, forest and lake ecosystems with the citizen, it is aimed to explain the importance of these ecosystems to the society and to strengthen the connection of METU with society from adults to students of all ages and to create educational programs.
- To provide theoretical and practical trainings to university students and willing citizens in short term programs (1-3 days) with the contribution of experts in the field of ecosystem structure and diversity
- Strengthen the links of young individuals with the natural richness of the METU campus and increase their learning skills related to scientific processes by making observations and collecting data.
- To spread the knowledge and experience to target audience in Turkey and even in abroad with the power of innovative information technologies.